03 March 2022

‘This town will starve if nothing comes’: Life in Russian-occupied Kherson

03 March 2022

Ukrainian citizens and Russian soldiers in the occupied city of Kherson are “getting used to each other” but concern is growing about food shortages, according to a local man.

The Russian military has claimed control of the Black Sea port, taking over local government buildings, after forces entered the city on Tuesday.

On Thursday, some locals emerged from their homes after days of staying inside to assess the state of the city and search for food in whatever shops were open.

“The bigger shops are closed or already robbed,” a man who asked to be referred to as Jimmy told the PA news agency.

“What’s open is smaller shops, smaller groceries.”

Many of those shops and nearby ATMs have large queues of people outside, with many struggling to come to terms with what has happened and others trying to stay positive.

“I see worried faces, men and women,” Jimmy said.

“Some are anxious, some people are cheering up everyone around.

“One queue to the ATM looks very desperate and the other is just cheerful and nice and everyone’s smiling.”

Jimmy said most people had stocked up on food before the Russians arrived but, stuck inside for days, many had used their supplies to “eat the anxiety down”.

“Definitely the food is scarce right now,” he said.

As for what supplies were available in the shops, he said it was a hit-and-miss affair.

“It’s a matter of luck,” Jimmy said.

“If you find a shop which wasn’t robbed or which didn’t sell out… but I guess there’s not much luck any more, right?

“This town is going to starve if nothing comes.”

Other locals had chosen to stay closer to home.

(Nina Kachar)

Nina Kachar, an English teacher, said she had not gone far from her house, where she is staying with her two children, her sister and her sister’s children.

She described damage to houses, a shopping centre and a school but said the worst of the violence seemed to be over in the city.

“Since yesterday it’s quiet,” she said.

“Now we have fighting and all these explosions only on the outskirts of the city.”

Nevertheless, Ms Kachar, 37, and her family have bags packed ready to go should they need to make a quick exit.

The upheaval comes only two years after she had to deal with the death of her husband.

“Then it was only my tragedy but now when it’s all people it’s more scary,” she said.

Jimmy said the city was not overrun with Russian troops but that some were visible, including in front of the local council buildings, which were still flying the Ukrainian flag.

He spoke of his fear on running into a Jeep full of troops with a machine gun on the roof.

But he said one of the soldiers had a conversation with a local person on the street corner and waved, which eased his fears somewhat.

(PA Graphics) (PA Graphics)

“I think it’s much less panic around on both sides,” he said.

“The Russian military was also very afraid as they entered the town.

“Now I could call it peace, what’s happening in Kherson.

“We’re adapting to this new reality.

“It looks like people are getting used to each other and getting used to the situation.”

Ms Kachar said that most people just wanted it all to be over.

“People like me, we all just want peace,” she said.

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